Christ-follower or Christian… Does It Really Matter?

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I AmI’ve been surfing the web today, pondering on what it means to be a Christian vs Christ-follower.

I used to call myself Christian based entirely on the fact that it was just what I was raised to call myself.

When I began my walk with God in more recent years, learning about Him and creating a relationship with Him, the term Christ-follower became a new way to describe my faith.

It felt more personal somehow, and more action-focused.

Yes, there is Biblical reference in that the first followers of Christ were dubbed Christians… but at the essence that still meant they were Christ-followers. 

Acts 11:26 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. He found him and brought him back to Antioch. They were there a whole year, meeting with the church and teaching a lot of people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were for the first time called Christians.

Before the term Christian was used, people who followed Christ were referred to as disciples who were “of the way”. They followed “The Ways of Jesus Christ” and attempted to live as He lived, even if that meant suffering persecution as a result.

What’s Right and Wrong?

Because of the abovementioned reference in the Book of Acts there are some people that believe the term Christian is the only acceptable name for disciples of Jesus.

They believe that people who call themselves Christ-followers are only trying to communicate that they are somehow “better” than a “common Christian”, almost like they are part of some elitist sect of Christianity, set apart from the rest of the Christian believers.

Then there are others who feel folks that refer to themselves as Christ-followers are merely trying to distance themselves from the “bad press” the term Christianity has earned itself in the last 2,000 odd years and adopt a more “politically correct” moniker.

The moral of that story being that if you are calling yourself a Christ-follower because you are ashamed to be called a Christian, oh sinner are thee!

They believe that true followers of Christ should bear the name Christian proudly and not try to water it down with alternative terms. There might even be some truth to that because in the Bible Peter tells us “Don’t be ashamed to suffer for being a Christian.” (Emphasis mine.) Instead we are told to “Praise God that you belong to Him.” (NIV)

The Message puts it this way:

1 Peter 4:16 If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!

As I’ve read all the different blogs and articles eschewing all the reasons why you should or shouldn’t call yourself one or the other, I’ve reached one resounding conclusion.

Who gives a donkey’s arse what you call yourself?

Call yourself a polka dotted rhino if you want!

It doesn’t change your heart.

God always knows your heart.

He knows those that truly belong to Him and those that simply talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Whether you walk around calling yourself a Christian or a Christ-follower, God knows who His children are!

Over to You

What’s your take on the topic? Do you call yourself a Christian? Christ-follower? Something else? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I promise there will be no smiting for a dissenting opinion. Just mind your manners.

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  1. I think the term “Christian” has become such a watered-down term, and a misused and too often twisted term, that many Christians are continually trying to find new ways to define and express who we are. Other so-called spiritualities have hijacked so many Christian terms, and new terms seem to be needed to differentiate true Christianity from the false spiritualities. Recently I’ve decided that as Christians, we need to take our terminology back, and, in the process, start teaching people the true meaning of the words. Christians don’t need to continually be on the run finding new verbiage. We have the verbiage, we just need to use it boldly and explain it boldly. Other than that, it really doesn’t matter what we call ourselves, but we should never be afraid to use the term “Christ”ian because we are followers of Christ..

    • Hey Melissa! I agree, we all need to be bold and claim what is ours. I think people get a little too hung up sometimes on details, and wind up unable to see the bigger picture. In this case, Christian, Christ-follower… it really doesn’t matter.

      The point is Christ dwells within you and you have chosen to model your life after Him.

      You can call that whatever you want to call it, but it doesn’t change the underlying fact that your heart belongs to God and He is well aware of it.
      Cori recently posted..Learning to Pray is Learning to Say- “God I Need You”My Profile

  2. I don’t think that the name ‘Christian’ has necessarily been watered down. It still makes Athiests everywhere cringe to hear it. I do think however, that people use the term ‘Christian’ too loosely. People who are not even followers of Christ call themselves Christian. People who aren’t saved call themselves Christian. People call music that is simply ‘nice’ or ‘family friendly’ Christian when it has nothing to do with God (not in the lyrics, the meaning, not about the Bible or a Biblical concept or anything)… What does it mean to me to be a Christian? To follow Christ. I don’t see a need to say, “I’m a Christ Follower” instead of “I’m a Christian,” but I’m not going to condemn or look down on anyone who does. I have however met a great number of people who say, “I’m not a Christian I’m a Christ Follower,” and they really do think they are better than others because they have somehow discerned the ‘true’ meaning of God’s Word that nobody else can truly know but them. Self-righteousness is a big pet peeve of mine. To me (at least for the people I’ve met, I’m not saying you personally), people who say, “I’m a Christ Follower.,” are like those who take pride in going to a ‘non-denominational’ church. They don’t realize that even non-denom churches are a denomination all in themselves. I’ve had so many ‘non-denominational’ church members look down on me for saying that I’m ‘Baptist’ and then I laugh because I know some of them go to this one ‘non-denom’ church who is lead by a Baptist Pastor who teaches Baptist doctrine, but never bothered to put the name ‘Baptist’ in the name of the church when he started it. They somehow think they’re being enlightened and more open minded by being ‘non-denom’ instead of standing up for what they believe in. I think to myself, man, if you’re Catholic, take a little pride in standing up for what you believe to be right instead of hiding behind a new label, or, hey if you believe the tennets of this denomination over here, don’t remove the name of the denom from your church to get ‘non-denom’s into the congregation. I feel like it’s hiding from Christ almost, like being ashamed of what you believe in, and if you’re ashamed of it, then don’t believe in it at all. So I realize this isn’t exactly the same for the term ‘Christ Follower’ instead of ‘Christian’, but for those I have met in person who say, ‘Oh I’m not a Christian, I follow Christ’, or, ‘I’m not religious, I’m just a believer’… I feel like they feel better than others. I don’t know, maybe it just makes them feel good about themselves, or maybe they’re scared of the negative connotations given to the term ‘Christian’ or to certain denominations by the bad behavior of certain people or by Athiests who like to tag all negative things to Christians. I know several people who have told me, “I hate Baptists,” not realizing that I am one, and when I ask them why they start talking about Westboro Baptist and their reprehensible behavior. Then I have to tell them, ‘those people are not Baptist, they are not even Christian, they don’t follow the teachings of Christ at all, the devil is just using them to drive people away from Christ and the Bible.. No real Christian or Baptist claims Westboro Baptist as their own. I can see why people might hide from labeling themselves as a denomination that has had bad publicity, but I still think it’s hiding from the world what you believe, not letting your light shine for God. Watered down Christianity…

    Ok, I’ve rambled enough. Thanks for the post :P
    JATomlinson recently posted..Jesus Resurrected – Christ’s Risen AppearancesMy Profile

    • Hehe… ramble away, it’s interesting to read other points of view. You’re right that it does seem to still make Atheists cringe, although I’m not sure that’s a good thing… if we are doing our job in the right way, sinners, atheists, non-believers of all faiths should still view us as good, kind, forgiving, nonjudgmental, as points of light in an otherwise dark world. All things that would make a person feel good versus feeling like cringing.

      You’re right about the labeling too. Christ follower, Christian, Baptist, Non denom… at the end of the day, you either believe in God or you don’t and you believe Jesus is the way to salvation or you don’t. The rest is just semantics. We are what God says we are, nothing less. Labels often just muddy the waters and cause division, and I think that’s true of all things, not just religion and beliefs.
      Cori recently posted..Be Kind and Be Generous… Even to the Douche Bags of the PlanetMy Profile

  3. Well personally I call myself both! Is that an option? Interesting post nonetheless. Maybe I’ll start thinking about if I call myself a Christian or a Christ-follower more often :)

  4. Ah, you young folks! It makes me harken back to the days when Jimmy Carter “(see @Powells today on Twitter) called himself a “Born-again Christian.” This was new to popular culture back in the mid 1970s.. It got headlines.

    Every new phrase that brings positive attention to Christ and makes folks forget for a moment how badly his followers represent him at times might be good.


  5. RICHARD says:

    I don’t mind being called Christian because it means christ like or follower!

  6. ‘Love this:
    “Who gives a donkey’s arse what you call yourself?”
    And I agree, God knows the heart and that’s what matters. Thanks for this post, Cori.

  7. Ms Gee

    I call myself a Christ-follower now, but its not to put myself above anyone. The reason I began using Christ-follower is because “Christian” is commonplace nowadays. Everybody thinks they are a Christian. JW say they are Christians, Mormons say they are Christians, entertainers say they are Christians, Oprah Winfrey believes she is a Christian; but the reality is none of these people have an undeniable belief in the Lord Jesus and God.
    So, Christ-followers makes people think about what they are professing before they make a profession about. When we say Christ-follower we are claiming that we are following Christ-His teachings and His ways.

  8. It brought water to my eyes to find out I am a polka dotted rhino was a relief…My new response to the question are you a Christian..or when did you become a Christian…the one question that puts me off going back to church cos its seems that your entry point gives others a heirachy of earlier or later?? ..I digress response will be…”Ive always been God’s Child…( as the author said..God knows his children are) and now so do you dear questioner! xxxxxx

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